What's a modern alternative idiom to 'Don't spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar'?

Struggling to find an alternative to this idiom that would resonate with modern audiences.

  • 4
    I always think of "For want of a nail the kingdom was lost" in those circumstances, but I don't know how widely known it is. And I guess it doesn't sound that modern either :-) – JonLarby Jun 6 '18 at 8:42
  • 2
    'A stitch in time saves nine' is probably not yet moribund and conveys nearly the same message. But It's a false economy is fully up-to-date (though an imperative form is probably not as idiomatic). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 6 '18 at 9:33
  • "Ha'port of tar" sounds like a fictional duke in a space opera. – Azor Ahai -- he him Jun 6 '18 at 15:00

"Penny-wise and pound-foolish".
"So concerned with saving money in any way possible that one fails to allocate money to things that will ultimately force one to spend more (due to lack of quality, proper maintenance, etc). I know you don't want to pay for this expensive course of treatment, but when ignoring your health lands you in the hospital and you have to miss work, you'll see that you were penny-wise and pound-foolish."

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    This coheres with the meaning exactly. I got the ha'porth worth of tar, but completely missed the sheep. I assumed incorrectly that tar was used for filling holes in a ship's planking. It's that kind of misprision that often leads to folk etymologies. I am so glad I checked. Here's a great explanation of why sheep came to be pronounced ship: wordhistories.net/2017/10/13/spoil-ship-haporth-tar – Lambie Jun 6 '18 at 14:15
  • 1
    @Lambie ditto. I too assumed it stopped a ship sinking! Good link! – k1eran Jun 6 '18 at 21:17

buy cheap, buy twice TFD

poorly made or will wear out quickly


cut corners TFD

to take shortcuts; to save money or effort by finding cheaper or easier ways to do something.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.